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Measles Cause Immune Amnesia, Increases Risk Of Other Diseases

Measles, which is also known as morbilli, rubeola, red measles, etc. is one of the highly infectious and contagious diseases. The red rash is caused by a virus, which is popularly known as the measles virus.

Patients who are infected with this virus have to be isolated so that the virus does not spread [1] .

Along with high temperatures, the infection can also cause the patient to develop a cough, runny nose and red eyes, which can become severe and develop small white spots on the inside of the mouth called Koplik's spots [2] .

The main cause of measles is contact with an infected person, vitamin A deficiency, unhygienic living conditions and in some cases immunodeficiency due to HIV/AIDS. The vaccination for the condition is a combination of measles-mumps-rubella-varicella combo (MMRV vaccine) vaccine which when injected would help the individual be protected for 20 years [3] .

Consequently, a recent study has found that if a child gets affected by measles, it can erase the immune system's ability to prevent the onset of other diseases as the condition can make the immune system vulnerable to other infections.

Measles Can Cause Immune Amnesia

With previous studies on measles claiming that the disease can cause immune amnesia, this is the first study to focus on the exact workings of it. That is, the findings as published in the Science journal pointed out that even when patients recover, the virus can inflict lasting harm on their immune systems [4] . In plain language, the disease erases your immune system's memory - leaving one prone to catching the diseases all over again.

The study was supported by another study published in the journal Science Immunology where the head researcher asserted that both of incurred findings have aided in creating an understanding on the impact measles have in suppressing a child's immune system [5] .

Although previous studies had stressed on the fact that the Rubeola virus (measle-causing virus) causes a kind of forgetfulness in the immune system, it was not clear as to what extent it would affect the child's health.

The immune system in your body is responsible for fighting off infections and diseases by creating antibodies that help clear the infection. While doing so, the special immune cells in your body keep a note of the pathogen and aids in developing a stronger and faster defence if the virus or bacterium invades again [3] .

And, the current studies have successfully pointed out that measles can destroy this immune memory - causing immune amnesia.

Rubella (German Measles): Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Weakened Immunity Causes Various Diseases

Even after the patient has recovered from the condition, the weakened immunity leaves the child vulnerable for several years to other dangerous infections like flu and pneumonia. The mechanism behind this is that the measles virus kills off the cells that are responsible for producing the antibodies that play a crucial role in the prevention of diseases [6] .

As the measles virus wipe out immune cells that remember encounters with specific bacteria and viruses, your body forgets that a strain of virus or bacterium should be fought off and allows your body to get affected by the disease that the virus or bacteria is carrying.

Stresses On The Importance Of Early Vaccination

With the study finding out that measles wiped out 11 per cent to 73 per cent of a child's antibodies against an array of viruses and bacteria, the researchers pointed that the virus can reside in the bone marrow and can live for decades - further worsening the ability to rebuild the child's lost immunity [7] .

The study compares the impact the virus has on vaccinated children and the ones who were not vaccinated, and revealed that the ones who were vaccinated against measles have no decreased levels of antibodies.

The studies have indeed stressed on the importance of vaccinations which some people disregard on the grounds of personal or religious beliefs [8]. However, avoiding or even postponing vaccinations can impact your child's health in various ways - paving way for diseases that are preventable [8] .

One of the head researchers said, "I agree that the findings also enhance the strength of the argument for vaccination but I don't think it's going to change vaccination rates, because those decisions are irrational" [9] .

On A Final Note...

With the studies pointing out the grave impact measles can have on a child's health and the way, it could impact one' health even in the future - the one major factor that gets highlighted is the importance of timely vaccination [10] . Because getting a vaccination against diseases at any point of time can also increase the risk of contracting various diseases. On-time vaccination is indeed the answer because prevention is better than cure!

View Article References
  1. [1] Laksono, B. M., De Vries, R. D., McQuaid, S., Duprex, W. P., & De Swart, R. L. (2016). Measles virus host invasion and pathogenesis. Viruses, 8(8), 210.
  2. [2] Ludlow, M., McQuaid, S., Milner, D., de Swart, R. L., & Duprex, W. P. (2015). Pathological consequences of systemic measles virus infection. The Journal of pathology, 235(2), 253-265.
  3. [3] Griffin, D. E. (2016). The immune response in measles: virus control, clearance and protective immunity. Viruses, 8(10), 282.
  4. [4] Mina, M. J., Metcalf, C. J. E., De Swart, R. L., Osterhaus, A. D. M. E., & Grenfell, B. T. (2015). Long-term measles-induced immunomodulation increases overall childhood infectious disease mortality. Science, 348(6235), 694-699.
  5. [5] Mina, M. J., Kula, T., Leng, Y., Li, M., de Vries, R. D., Knip, M., ... & Larman, H. B. (2019). Measles virus infection diminishes preexisting antibodies that offer protection from other pathogens. Science, 366(6465), 599-606.
  6. [6] Holzmann, H., Hengel, H., Tenbusch, M., & Doerr, H. W. (2016). Eradication of measles: remaining challenges. Medical microbiology and immunology, 205(3), 201-208.
  7. [7] Gans, H., Maldonado, Y. A., & Kaplan, S. L. (2018). Measles: Clinical manifestations, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. Uptodate. Consultation: April, 12.
  8. [8] Mathieu, C., Huey, D., Jurgens, E., Welsch, J. C., DeVito, I., Talekar, A., ... & Porotto, M. (2015). Prevention of measles virus infection by intranasal delivery of fusion inhibitor peptides. Journal of virology, 89(2), 1143-1155.
  9. [9] Weintraub, K. (2019, October 31). Measles Infection Could Leave Kids Vulnerable to Other Diseases. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/measles-infection-could-leave-kids-vulnerable-to-other-diseases/
  10. [10] Gourru-Lesimple, G., Mathieu, C., Thevenet, T., Guillaume-Vasselin, V., Jégou, J. F., Boer, C. G., ... & Goujon, C. (2017). Measles virus infection of human keratinocytes: Possible link between measles and atopic dermatitis. Journal of dermatological science, 86(2), 97-105.

Read more about: measles rubella infection diseases
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